“ Brand: Marriott / Address: 1128 West Hastings Street · Vancouver, British Columbia V6E 4R5 Canada „
I recently (December 2011) spent six nights in Vancouver, attending a conference on Dating Mining (yawn, I know!) which was huge enough to use all the conference facilities at *two* Marriott hotels in Vancouver. These were situated literally across the street from each other, so having already decided I wanted to stay in the same venue to make life easier, I had a choice between the two. The Downtown Pinnacle won out for having bigger rooms, better room service options, and an extra star - 4 instead of the Renaissance's 3. The difference in price was only $10 a night, so seemed worth it, and based on the conference rooms I'd say my choice was the newer and therefore slightly smarter-looking of the pair.
Booking the hotel via the website couldn't have been easier. Alongside the usual choices of room type (double rooms came with queen, king or twin bed choices), I was able to request a high or low floor and also specify free extras including non-feather pillows (they make me sneeze!) and extra towels. If you're a Marriott rewards customer, there was a prompt to ensure you received your points. Probably better rates are available via other websites, but going direct gave me an extra feel of security when I was about to head halfway around the globe!
~Checking in and the Room~
By the time I arrived at 6pm local time, my own body clock was telling me it was 2am so I hugely appreciated the staff at the front desk being generally lovely - they were all friendly and willing to offer information and travel advice throughout my stay. I don't recall much of the check-in process, but it seemed to go smoothly enough! The lobby is grandly impressive, but I headed immediately to my room, which was easily the biggest I've ever had in a hotel! I'd been lucky and had been given a corner room - I'd recommend requesting one, if you get the chance - meaning I had full length windows round two long, curved walls. I'd opted for a city-view room, rather than paying the extra for the harbour view, but because of that curve I could stand in the corner and peak out at the sea anyway, as well as a less-pretty but still impressive view of skyscrapers from the rest. The room's position also helped it to be ultra-quiet: the hotel itself seemed generally very peaceful (being 28 floors up also meant there was no street noise, although even the lower conference rooms seemed to have good soundproofing glazing), but no one had to walk past my room to get to their own and I only heard a few doors closing from my immediate neighbours.
The bathroom also had a full-length window, unfortunately placed right beside the toilet! Needless to say, the blinds stayed firmly closed!! The bath was disappointingly shallow - no wallowing in hot water for me - but the separate shower cubicle housed a nicely powerful spray, and the whole room was nicely done in faux-marble with plenty of space (it was easily twice the size of my bathroom at home...!). A hairdryer was provided, as were daily-replenished mini toiletries (Bath and Body Works Orange and Ginger - yes, these things can make a difference!). And just to state the obvious but very important: everything was spotlessly clean. Not necessarily brand new, but while a few things looked slightly age-worn, it was all well maintained.
Back to the room, and my requested king-sized bed didn't dwarf the room at all - and no soggy-in-the-middle mattress here: it was actually more comfortable than my own at home, even if I did have to rather climb up into it! The door was round a corner from the main space, adding to a feeling of privacy. There was ample storage to unpack (I've grown un-fond of living out of the suitcase!), including a built-in wardrobe near the door which also housed the safe and ironing facilities, and a to-borrow-or-buy robe (careful: it shed fluff all over the place!). The rest of the room housed a desk, small armchair and table, and a unit with drawers, a mini bar (I didn't dare open it - had I known it was going to be there, I would have asked for it to be emptied, so I could use it for my own stuff without fear of charges) and a very large flatscreen tv - and still didn't feel crowded!
Internet access - wi-fi or cabled, your choice - cost extra, with a daily charge of around $12. I was given the option of upgrading to an executive room with free wi-fi, for an additional $17 a night - a reasonably good offer, but after one night I was too enamoured of my quiet room with great view and uber-comfy bed to risk moving! The 'net access was good enough for me to Skype home, and relatively easy to set up with the fee being charged to your room with your authorisation, and lasting 24 hours automatically.
~Room service and other food~
Usually you wouldn't end up spending as much time in the hotel room as I ended up doing: mainly because I was travelling alone, and for a conference rather than holiday, and I also came down with the worst cold. However, I would very happily have moved in, so it didn't feel like too much of a downside! It helped that the room service was also great - as quick as the restaurant service, if not quite so well presented or with as many extras (I had the same meal in both locations) - if ever so slightly posh, from what I'm used to: I got a bit freaked out by the post- (or once, mid-) meal phone call to ask if everything was okay and would I like my tray collected!
The hotel housed a very nice (and not *too* extortionate) restaurant (word of warning: a pork chop in Canada is the size of about six of ours, at least here!), a very sweet little coffee house great for breakfast, and a shop that sold a few hot and cold food items. I found a great wee shop at the end of the street, selling hot food and groceries, and there were Starbucks in every direction! There were a few other gift-type shops on the premises, hidden away on the mysterious second floor - the main lifts (excuse me, elevators!) skipped this one, although you could get off on the floor above and find the mini-lift. Seemed odd, but it did separate the conference areas from the room, and both were separated from the residential floors right at the top - yup, some people *did* move in! ;)
~Extra Facilities and Services / Checking Out~
The conference facilities were very grand - all very high-ceilings and plush old-style decor. Unfortunately a lot of it was also devoid of natural daylight, which doesn't sit too well with me. The main room was massive - plenty of room for the 500-600 people there - and split into three separate areas, plus a large collection of other smaller rooms surrounding it. The hotel also hosted full gym facilities - not that I really used them, but they looked pretty good (if again lacking natural daylight, and also strangely empty at 5pm on a Friday) and I can vouch that the changing facilities were great - spacious, clean and very well stocked with free towels, shampoo and soap - as I was allowed to use them to freshen up before heading out to catch my flight - despite the fact that I'd checked out six hours before! That checking out process was very easy, with a bill slipped under my door during my last night, allowing me to check out remotely rather than queuing at the front desk. The final bill was amended to include one last wi-fi fee, and was emailed out to me back home.
Location-wise, I really couldn't have asked for better in Vancouver, with the gorgeous Stanley Park a scenic 15-20 minute walk away around the harbour sea-wall, and the main shopping area just a few streets over in the other direction. I didn't brave public transport, but a very short bus ride would have taken me to Granville Island - by the time I'd walked (across a very scary road bridge!) I was too tired to explore! We also had a day trip out to Capilano Suspension Bridge and rainforest (no, really!), which was again just 20-or-so minutes by coach. The airport was slightly further away, but still only about 30 minutes in the taxi, if that.
All in all, then, this was easily the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. I'd put it down to being a fairly budget traveller normally, but a recent stay in Liverpool cost me slightly more, albeit with food chucked in. The rates do vary quite considerably depending on things like sea view and how far in advance you book, but I'd totally recommend a little splurge for that added feeling of luxury! I booked about two months in advance, and got a special rate of CAN$129 - about £82. Practically cheap when it came with a feeling of having been upgraded to business class! The hotel may be 4*, but as far as I'm concerned, the service - particularly letting me use the gym facilities long after I'd checked out, and looking after my luggage for the day too! - pushes this to a 5* review from me.